Publikation Soziale Bewegungen / Organisierung Programmatic corner stones on the road to a new Left Party in Germany (February 2006)





Juli 2008


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I- Preamble

With these corner stones, we want to promote understanding on the programme of a common Left Party in Germany. In a free and self-determined manner, there unite in this party persons and political currents of the Left with different history and origins, East and West. After their unification as well, the necessary debate on self-understanding, programmatic guiding ideas, reform projects, and political strategy will be continued. A common party needs agreement on a programmatic basis. The following presentations are supposed to trigger a programmatic debate in the Left Party.PDS, the WASG, and of all Left people interested in the party formation process.

Permanent mass unemployment, the economic and cultural split of society, de-democratization, and demolition of social rights, exclusion and fear of social decline and of poverty increasingly mark our society. The destruction of nature takes on ever more threatening dimensions. War has again become a means of politics of the Federal Republic. Together with trade union, church, intellectual, ecological, and other forces critical of capitalism, together with groups of the women’s and the peace movement, anti-fascist and anti-racist initiatives, together with many women and men citizens we strive in common for a change of direction in politics. Therefore, we want to create a strong, common party of the Left.

We are united by the struggle for a peaceful, just, and democratic society, where everyone can live in a self-determined way and in dignity. Today, many lack the necessary conditions of such a life. We want to change this. We strive for a world without wars, without poverty and hunger, where everyone has a home, can enjoy health insurance, education and culture, has access to social security and to meaningful work. For that purpose, there is a need for a basic change of property and power relations. Many among us imagine this other world as a solidary and just society, many understand by it democratic socialism.

In order to achieve this goal we orient our common action mainly
- toward the subordination of the economy under social and ecological goals of  justice-oriented policies, the overcoming of mass unemployment and the democratisation of property relations;
- toward the democratisation of society that should grant to all people living here equal possibilities of participation. Here there belongs the struggle against every form of social oppression, against patriarchical and capitalist power structures, against racism, anti-semitism, and right-wing extremism;
- toward the renewal and the extension of public services and solidary security systems, and
- toward the creation of an international order of peace, collective security and solidary development for which the European Union is supposed to become a model.

In the conflicts of the present, we engage in a peaceful and democratic way and manner for the realisation of our goals; in the daily lives of the people, in strikes and protest actions, in the media, in science and in culture, in local communities and in regional parliaments, in the Federal Parliament and in the European Parliament, in all political areas and functions that serve these ends.

The foundation for old splits within the Left has broken off, even if this has not yet been accepted everywhere. The Left of the 21st century builds on the goals and traditions of the left, democratic, and socialist movements up to now. This requires us to deal in a critical and solidary fashion with the history of the Left in the GDR and in the FRG. We place ourselves consciously in the traditions of enlightenment and of democratic socialism, of the great emancipation movements of workers and of women, of the colonized and racially oppressed people. We have learnt from history: respect of people thinking differently is the prerequisite of liberation. We refuse any form of dictatorship and condemn Stalinism as a criminal abuse of socialism.

We want to maintain and explore the traditions, experiences, and competence of those forces that together form our new party. Here, there belong radical-democratic, left social democrat and left anti-capitalist positions just as orientations toward the rights of women and men citizens, insights from protest movements carried by trade unions and unemployed against neoliberalism, the commitment to the reinforcement of regional development and the confrontation with “new social democracy” and with sectarian currents in the old Federal Republic. The new social movements against neoliberalism and capitalist globalisation are an important reference point of our renewal.

Together we want to form a Left party as it did not exist in Germany since 1914 – uniting the Left, standing for freedom and equality, fighting for peace, democratic and social, open and pluralistic, passionate and tolerant. We strive for a political party that openly debates all social challenges and aims at realising a change of orientation in society. We are part of the European Left and of its party. We are part of the movements everywhere in the world who fight under the banner: Another world is possible!

II- Contradictions in contemporary society

Contemporary society is marked by the contradiction between an enormous potential of material and cultural wealth, on the one hand, and the incapacity, on the other, to open up this potential in such a way that all people can secure an independent existence and live in dignity. This incapacity takes on ever more threatening features. The societies of the mature capitalist societies have produced possibilities to overcome poverty, social injustice, and humiliation of people in common. It is possible to redeem the unfolding of individual capabilities and the satisfaction of individual of social needs by considerably less work time. Similarly, there is the chance to break up the division of work time between the sexes, and to contribute to their equality in this way. Increasing insecurity, inequality, and aggressiveness have become essential features of the neoliberal development of capitalism. These relationships can be changed. They are the result of capitalist crisis processes, economic and political strategies of rule by big capital and of the policy of the governments supporting it. Challenges have arisen that demand new answers.

Mass unemployment and shaping of the work-world: There are over five million unemployed in Germany, and still the state and employers’ associations are fighting for the prolongation of week and life work time. Instead of employing more persons in education, the health sector, and other human-oriented services, they become unemployed and must work under unsafe conditions and at low wages.

Gender justice: The equal placement of women and men has advanced in many areas in the last decades; however, women are still discriminated at the work place, in the family, and in politics. Today above all women in lower income brackets, by way of unemployment and Hartz reforms, more and more frequently become losers in society.

Social inequality: Never up to now were the possibilities for a life of people with equal rights and in a self-determined way, independent of gender, ethnic and social origin and sexual orientations, as large as today and yet inequality is increasing once more. The gap between rich people, normal earners, and poor people is getting bigger. It becomes obvious again that we live in a class society.

Renewal of social security systems and overcoming of excessive public indebtedness: Since German unification, the real net profits and incomes from wealth have grown by more than a third while the real incomes of the employed are stagnating. Social wealth continues to grow, but it is distributed ever more one-sidedly. Inadequate revenues of the state budgets serve as justification for social cut-backs and job elimination. At the same time, taxes on profits, high incomes, and wealth continue to be reduced. The privatisation of social security, of public services, and infrastructure open to capital new fields of capital utilisation and destroy their solidarity-based character.

Education and science: In order to be able to survive in a society organised ever more along the lines of the division of labour and to be able to stand up in a world changing at a terrific speed, education and science become ever more significant. Yet in the last three decades, the corresponding share of expenditures in Germany has dropped. The educational system is oriented towards social selection, instead of the encouragement of all children and youth and the unfolding of their personalities. The multi-level school system turns out be outmoded and does not live up to the demands of the time.

Regional under-development: For years regional inequality has also been increasing in Germany again. The mistakes made, when the GDR joined the FRG, were part of a fundamental incapacity to secure equal-valued conditions of economic and social development. Many regions in Germany are characterised by extremely high unemployment and the out-migration of young, qualified people. These processes are part of growing regional inequality in Europe and world-wide.

Environmental crisis: An efficiency revolution in the employment of natural raw materials has already been possible for a long time, but the CO2 emissions in Germany amount every year to more than 900 million tons. Upheavals in ways of production and ways of life figure on the global agenda, but the necessary, basic reforms are being postponed ever more.

Globalisation: The gap between the incomes of the lowest and the upper-most fifths of the world population has worsened from 1960 until today from a relationship 1:30 to 1:75 today. Since 1999, the expenditures on armament have been increased, on a world-wide scale, from $ 687 billion to around $ 1,000 billion. Two-fifths of these expenditures are made by the USA. World-wide developmental aid, on the contrary, amounts to only about $ 55 billion. Globalisation requires solidary responses to low-wage competition and migration, environmental destruction, and the overcoming of glaring inequality.

Demographic change: The growing life expectancy in society is used increasingly for pension cuts and for the privatisation of old age provision. A new form of full employment, the strengthening of labour productivity and a more just distribution, a child-friendly policy and a far-sighted immigration policy can avert social decline. Yet, demographic change is linked to fundamental challenges, to the shaping of the work-world of older people, to urban planning and architecture, infrastructure, services, and life-long learning.

De-democratisation: The increasing complexity of state action demands growing transparency and a further democratisation of society. After all, the enormous social power panoply concentrated in the hands of the large international financial funds and the multinational concerns, in the institutions of global capitalism (WTO, IMF and World Bank etc.) and supranational organisations brings about an increasing erosion of the very substance of democracy.  The continuous privatisation of public infrastructure and services withdraws to democracy its policy-fashioning possibilities, especially also in the communities. By way of the so-called “war against terror”, not only military interventions contrary to international law are being justified, but also basic and freedom rights in the parliamentary democracies of the West are massively curtailed. Even elementary rights such as the right to protection against torture, abduction and unlimited incarceration have already been violated. Imperial tendencies are strengthening considerably.

Neoliberalism retraces the weakness of growth and the necessity of a one-sided distribution to the restraint over long years of private property rights and market forces by state and trade unions. Yet, the contrary is the case:  the welfare state compromise has been annulated by the economic and political rulers. In the firms and in society, a class struggle from above is being led to lower wage and social costs and to force higher flexibility and preparation for adjustment by the employees.

Attempts by social democracy to bridge the gap between innovation potentials and lack of social justice by social cushioning, without finishing with the subordination of society under the market and capital utilisation, are insufficient and will fail in the long run.

For more than 10 years now, a movement has been forming against the renewed unleashing of capitalism. With our ideas for a fundamentally different direction of development of society, we want to contribute to transcending the predominance of neoliberalism by this movement and to introducing a transformation that might bring us to a socially just and democratic society. 

III- Political Alternatives

Today’s capitalism has brought fourth developmental possibilities that make another world possible: the increase in social wealth, the growth in knowledge, individuality, and autonomy for millions of people in their jobs and in their private lives as well as the internationalisation of the economy harbour emancipative chances. At the same time, this development is linked to gravely mistaken developments and social contrasts.

Our guiding image is a society that guarantees equal participation to each and everyone in the elementary conditions of a self-determined life in freedom, social security, dignity, and solidarity with others. In order to achieve that, we want to bring about a change in the power and distribution relations in economy and society. What is necessary is the overcoming of all relationships of ownership, disposal, and rule that lie at the basis of profit dominance, in which “man is a demeaned, an enslaved, an abandoned and a despicable creature” (Marx). Democratic socialism in this sense is an emancipative and transformative process that begins on today’s society and at the same time points beyond it.

Guided by this idea, we want the transition to an alternative way of development. The basic directions of economic development may not remain with the market, but it is necessary to steer them democratically. We want a renewal of democracy, which will make it possible to subject the disposal over all forms of property to social criteria. In public ownership, we see an indispensable foundation of public existential provision and of the offering of public goods. We want to strengthen the public sector.

Democracy does not exhaust itself in elections. We commit ourselves to more participation and direct influence on politics by the women and men citizens – for a comprehensive democratisation of society.

Alternative development also means ecological re-construction of economy and society, the linking of ecological and social sustainability.

To the democratisation of all hierarchical relationships, there belongs the overcoming the dominance of men over women in society and the fight for the real equalization of the sexes in politics, economics, and society.

Alternative reform policy in all policy fields is obligated to the overcoming of any other kind of discrimination as well: the discrimination of people for reason of nationality, religion or political opinion, discrimination on the basis of social origins, of handicaps or for age reasons.

1 - Work – sensible, socially shaped, and self-determined

The different forms of work – gainful employment, work in families and partnerships, volunteer work and work in one’s free time – form the basis of social wealth, personal development, and of solidary togetherness in society. It belongs to democracy that the women and men citizens confer and decide together on the organisation of social work as well as on the just distribution of the standard of living they earn together.

Capitalistically organised gainful employment today more than ever stands in a field of tension between individual attribution of meaning and self-realisation, on the one hand, and exploitation and insecurity, on the other. A part of the wage labour relationships today are determined by growing autonomy in work, larger scopes of action, and flatter hierarchies. But on the other hand, over-loading, loss of social security and of the chance to plan of one’s own development is increasingly the price to pay for self-determination in one’s work. Daily life is marked by the destruction of regulated work relationships, mass unemployment, social exclusion, discontinued earnings biography, and lack of possibilities for the planning of one’s own working biography.

Our policy sets in with these real contradictions and the wish for existence-securing, well-paid work, for autonomy and social security. A central point here is the nature of gainful work as the basis for participation in social life and wealth, for the active shaping of individual life relationships just as of the democratic articulation of the economy, and as the condition for free unfolding outside of gainful employment. We commit ourselves to the humanization of work relationships, to adequate basic and continued education, for solidary distribution relationships and social security system building on gainful employment. We consider a social basic security for all persons living here and in need as indispensable to guarantee economic independence for everybody.

We resist prolongation of work-time and demand serious reductions of work-time. We want work to be distributed more justly among all of us, and we want more self-determination of the employed over the distribution of their work-time. People need more free time for education, qualification, culture, sport, leisure, family, friends and creative individual occupation. We demand a reform of the work-time law. The regular weekly work-time may amount to at most 40 hours. Overtime must be limited more stringently; work accounts must be regulated and secured. Parents and caring people have a right to additional reduction of work-time.

Work must be worth it – for everybody! Therefore, we demand a legal minimal wage that guarantees, at a regular full-time employment, a secure existence above the poverty level. Incomes should rise year by year by at least the amount by which the scope of freedom for distribution in between rise in productivity and compensation for inflation was not used for reduction of work-time with wage compensation. Only then will there result sufficient purchasing power for more jobs. We support the trade unions in their struggle for wage increases.

We want better security for the working people. Limited employment and lease work may only be an exception and not become the rule. We want to improve the protection against dismissal instead of reducing it ever more.  We want to strengthen
the rights of enterprise councils and of trade unions at the firm level. We interact closely with initiatives by the unemployed and struggle against the policy of pitting against each other core teams, gainfully employed in insecure work relationships, and the unemployed.

We want to strengthen the regulation of wages and work conditions of the employed by collective agreements. We want to make sure that they can be declared generally valid more easily than up to now. Laws and collective agreements must be kept also there, where foreign employees are employed. A posting law must, therefore, prescribe for all branches that the standards of the work location should hold. We want public orders only to be given to firms who keep the collective agreements.

We want gender democracy also in work life and demand equal pay for equivalent work by women and men. Therefore, in many areas, where overwhelmingly women are occupied, we want to push through significantly higher incomes. An effective law must undercut discrimination also in private business. The conditions for the compatibility between family and profession must be decisively improved. This requires the territory-wide, need-commensurate extension of all-day institutions for children of every age as well as of high-value offerings for people in need of care.

A central project of the new left party is a publicly sponsored employment sector at the intersection between private economy and the state that together with the public sector secure mainly the social infrastructure of the community. They are at the same time the ground for the creation of extended forms of business-level co-determination. By way of this publicly sponsored employment sector, social, cultural, and ecological needs can be satisfied, which the market or the public sector do not cover. It is supposed to be realised mainly by way of common-weal-oriented associations, citizens’ initiatives, self-help groups as well as social and cultural institutions.

New jobs can be created on a grand scale by ecological restructuring, by way of technologies geared especially to that end, and by the extension of public services catering to real needs.

We want an active labour market policy that concentrates on groups that have particularly bad chances on the labour market. We want to offer, by concentrating public financial means and by their combination with other funds, regular, insurance-liable jobs paid in accordance with collective agreements.

Among left people as well as in society as a whole, it is disputed, whether the demand for gainful employment for all those looking for work can still be a realistic and central goal of alternative policies.

2 - Economy, finances, environment – linked in a lasting way

In order to make possible meaningful and social work for all, in order to introduce an ecological reconstruction, and to make possible a solidary development at a global level, a fundamental change of course in economic and financial policy is indispensable. Without a massive increase in regular jobs, a more social work and labour market policy can better administer the shortage, but not offer an escape from it. Only when mass unemployment is reduced can one finance active labour market policy and a high level of social security permanently, without burdening the employed even more.  Moreover, an active economic policy aiming at job creation will decisively improve the conditions for the employed and their trade unions, helping them to get implemented higher incomes and shorter work-times.

An alternative economic policy is a creative policy. It aims at a strong weight of social-state policy instead of its subordination under market constraints. It accords considerable weight to a long-term structural, scientific, and technology policy. It considers profit-oriented entrepreneurial action as important for innovation and business economic action capability. However, it strives for a new social-ecological framework for market mechanisms, because, without co-determination, trade union counter-power and social-state regulation, private entrepreneurial interests will lead to macroeconomic, social and ecological losses and undesirable trends. By way of the tax and fee system, action conducive to environmental improvement is supposed to be financially rewarded, while action causing environmental damage shall be punished.

The Left does not advocate blind growth fetishism, but also not the refusal of any type of growth as ecologically damaging. We want growth to develop especially by additional work in the areas that bring forth ecological restructuring and satisfy important social needs: education and child-raising, care, social services, science and research, art and culture, public transport, heat control and ecological reconstruction of energy supply, rehabilitation of the transport and disposal infrastructure etc.

Public investments and budgetary policy      

A central economic policy project of the new left party is a public future investment programme on a grand scale. Public investments should be increased at least to the West European average level, meaning by annually 20 to 30 billion. Public employment and publicly financed occupation in the above-mentioned areas should be considerably extended.

For more investment and jobs and the securing of the social state, the state needs money. Only rich people can afford a poor state. By higher incomes, we shall also manage to trim indebtedness in a socially just way.

An additional central project is a just tax policy. Concerns and other profitable companies must again be forced to pay higher taxes. A wealth tax shall be levied; the inheritance tax on large fortunes must be increased. Tax loopholes for wealthy people and high earners must be closed resolutely, and economic criminality must be fought more decisively. We want to tax gains from the sales of stocks and bonds and real estate without time for speculation. We want to raise the top tax rate to at least 50 percent.

Disputed among us is the role that budgetary consolidation with the aim of reacquiring leeway for left politics is supposed to have. In there, there also belong questions, to what extent, in view of the financing problems of public budgets, an extension of public investments, credit financing and of employment in public service can be financed and defended.

European concertation and regionalisation

Alternative economic policy, in the European Union and internationally, must be linked in the European Union and internationally with struggles for social and ecological change and for a just world economic order. What is necessary are European agreements on social and ecological minimal standards and the support of movements, who engage for this world-wide – this with compensation for disadvantages for poor people. What is indispensable is the democratic control of financial markets: limiting of stock and currency speculation, European regulations for the damming of capital transfers to tax islands, concerted steps EU-wide for the minimal taxation of capital receipts and entrepreneurial gains.

Alternative economic policy comprises – particularly urgent for East Germany and economically weak West German areas – the strengthening of regional economic circuits and the encouragement of crafts firms, small and medium-sized firms and cooperatives.

Sustainability as a central task

For an entry into an alternative developmental path, the maintenance and the re-appropriation of a healthy environment have first-rank meaning. We commit ourselves to a policy that transcends the limitations of an ecological reparation policy and aims at a socially dominated ecological restructuring of economy and society. One fifths of the world population in the industrial countries may no longer use up four-fifths of world-wide resources. Social and ecological restructuring, change in the ways of production and life belong together. That is the necessary basic orientation for economic, innovation, and technological policy.

Central fields for action are, therefore, the utilisation of renewable energies, the reduction of energy input and increased energy efficiency in order to get out of the one-way street of atomic and mineral fuel energy economy and to make an effective contribution to the prevention of the climatic catastrophe. We give precedence to the prevention of refuse before their material and energetic utilisation or their disposal. An ecological turn in transport development is urgently required.

We want democratic planning, control, and intervention rights in ecological questions for environmental organisations, consumer organisations, trade unions, associations and other civil society associations.

The orientation of technology and innovation policy to the encouragement of low-risk technologies protective of the environment includes a strong development of world-market capable high technologies. We stand neither for interdictions pessimistic about the effects of technologies nor for their unconditional advocacy. Modern society needs the greatest possible variety of technological and social developmental options.

3- Social security – security for all

The solidary security systems and the social state are an essential civilisational achievement. Only social security grounded on legal claims enables freedom for all, and not only for the wealthy. We want to secure the social state, strengthen it, and fundamentally renew it. Changed work relationships and economic security, family and population structures and an equal position for women require fundamental reforms. We strive to comprehensively protect all members of society against the big social risks, to make sure the securing of living standards in old age, in the case of disability and unemployment, and we want to prevent poverty.

Public existential provision for education, health, caring for people, and culture, for mobility, water, gas and electricity is an elementary constituent of social security. The privatisation of public goods and these and other sectors of life infringes on the life security of all. Therefore, we defend public existential provision by a public sector and commit to expand it.

The financing problems of the social insurances are the consequence of high unemployment, of low wages and the lower increases in contributions as a result, as well as of the increase in uninsured employment. The ruling policy increases these problems. It relieves the employers and shifts the costs to the individuals. We need a change of policy. Then it will remain possible to finance an enlarged social state also in the future.

In the health sector, we want to introduce a solidarity-based citizens’ or people’s insurance. Everybody, also civil servants, independents and higher earners should have legal social insurance. Who has more income, should also be forced to pay higher insurance. Nobody should be able to evade that if he or she earns a lot. Employers must again be forced to pay half the contribution.

Structural reforms are overdue in the health system in order to guarantee high-quality medical treatment for all without class distinctions in the treatment. What is central here is mainly a better cooperation between hospitals, private practices and community institutions, stable quality insurance, the introduction of a positive list, a greater emphasis on prevention and on post-operative care, improvement of work conditions and better wages for medical and care personnel.

A central project of the new left party is the introduction of an individually, need-oriented social basic security: Who is poor or threatened by poverty due to unemployment, low income, lack of education or training, or for other social, health, or age-related reasons is poor or threatened by poverty must have a full claim to an individual, need-oriented basic security.

We want to give solidary insurance to those not gainfully employed. He or she, who has paid contributions for many years, should get more than one year of unemployment money. Work offerings should respect the true qualification and be rewarded on the level of active collective agreements. The deteriorations by the “Hartz laws” should be taken back.

We want secure and adequate pensions. We refuse cutbacks of pensions. He or she, who has contributed for decades to the pension tills, should also in the future receive a pension that allows him or her to keep up good living standard. Wages should again be agreed in lockstep with the wages. For the financing of the legal pension insurance, it should be transformed into a gainfully employed insurance, into which there will be included, in a longer process, members of all professions, free lancers, independents, deputies and also civil servants. The contribution threshold should be increased. We want to see people with higher incomes contribute at a higher level for the solidary financing of pensions without their claims rising to an equal extent. We demand to finally do away with the still existing discriminations in their pension claims for East Germans and to fully recognise pension claims earned. We refuse the planned increase of the pension entry age. For millions of future pensioners (women and men) this factually means a massive reduction of pensions. Future charges by a higher share of elderly people after the year 2020 or thereabout must be managed in solidarity by all of us, not by pension cuts.

Affordable living space adequate to needs is a precondition for social security and human dignity. We want to prevent the sell-out of public property of apartments and community service companies and maintain affordable apartments for families and older people and sponsor them. We want to consequently continue the city reconstruction programmes from this perspective and link them with regional economic and employment promotion in order to stabilise the social, economic, and urban life in the communities.

Under dispute in the spectrum of alternative debates is the question, whether we should rather give precedence to an unconditional individual basic income as a legal claim for all citizens (women and men) or to a need-oriented basic security for people in social distress. Since we refuse compulsory work, the problem is there: How can work that does justice to the dignity of the individual and need be defined?

A further question is, how strongly and at what places tax financing instead of the insurance principle should come to bear? Finally, it is being debated controversially which reforms demographic change as a whole requires.

4- Renewal of democracy

In ever more sectors of society, we register a curtailment of democratic rights. We want to reverse this tendency.  We have to be able to decide on the economic, political, and cultural order by the criterion of securing and expanding of democratic rights in a democratic way.

A democratic civil society lives off an active civil society as the collective producer of daily life. We want to combine parliamentary with direct democracy, which allows the (women and men) citizens, for instance by way of popular petitions and referenda as well as by way of citizens’ budgets more influence and co-determination. We have to continue to strengthen individual rights, legal control of state action, procedural guarantees, and independent control instances face to the state security bodies. We hold on to the strict separation of police and federal army as well as of policy and secret services. The right to decide oneself about one’s own data and their employment, for us is an inalienable right.

Economic democracy

We want to counteract the broad attack of neoliberal policy against the rights of the employed in the firm and their social security by a strengthening of the interest representations and the trade unions of the employed. Beyond the necessary defensive battle, we want to develop, together with the concerned, alternatives to the predominance of the interests of capital.

Economic democracy aims at lifting the sole representative power of capital over the goals and the developmental directions of the social economy, to protect the independently employed against the risks of the market and the arbitrariness of the employers and to realise co-determination rights at all economic levels. The interest conflict between the women and men recipients of profit and wealth and the dependently employed is not lifted by economic democracy. The power of big capital can, therefore, only be limited if the power for action of the trade unions is strengthened and also the interest representations of those not gainfully employed receive new rights. Economic democracy is simultaneously the decisive prerequisite for the social and ecological restructuring of the mode of production, of the humanising of the work world and a distribution of the wealth created by the whole society that both rewards performance and practises solidarity.  Economic democracy presupposes new answers to the exacerbation of the property question. We want to invite to a broad debate on how public property can be secured, extended, and used both socially as well as efficiently. We want to discuss how productive wealth can be spread more broadly and the power of disposal can be regulated democratically and in what areas it can be transferred to social property.

Gender democracy

The daily life of women in the Federal Republic is determined by a whole range of differentiated life positions. Age, qualification, profession, sexual orientation, family situation and other things in a significant way determine scopes for action and female self-identification in society.

Thanks to the women’s movement and the opening up of large gates of access to education, qualification, and gainful employment, women for a long time have no longer been limited to the private realm alone. Nevertheless, many barriers of sexual discrimination continue to exist or are reanimated by a policy of roll-back.

Well qualified women today have the chance for an adequate professional career; they usually fulfil the demands of communicative competence at the workplace better than their male colleagues, their wages, nonetheless, are on average by a third lower and the executive floors remain barred to them in all social areas in all of their length. The decision to have a child for women is still that of a “double charge”: child care, child-raising, and common household given limited social encouragement typically remain left to private arrangements.

Women with lower qualifications or long family periods outside of the gainful employment sector are the social “losers” of the social reforms of the last couple of years. Lower pension and social insurance claims, financial dependence on their partner, belonging to a “risk group” on the labour market; in particular in East Germany, it is the women that are discriminated by the ruling policy.

We shall oppose against these discriminations a policy of consequently equal participation of women in all areas and at all levels of society. Central demands on this road are legally anchored instruments, such as quotation or equal treatment law for the private sector, equal placement of women in the systems of social security and health, equal wage for equal work and re-appreciation of “female” activities, extension of all-day institutions of child-care until all needs are covered, especially for the lower income brackets, an adequate parents’ money (with a positive discrimination for caring fathers).

The overcoming of “typically female” and “typically male” gender roles by a consciously different design in education, child-raising, economics, the media etc. for us is the basis for a free unfolding of people up to their fullest capabilities and for social enrichment. We strive for the right to self-determination of women, here there also belongs the right to decide whether they want to complete a pregnancy. Therefore, we continue to demand the elimination of Paragraph 218 from the Criminal Code.

We struggle against violence to women by strengthening the rights of victims, encourage a comprehensive infrastructure of counselling and protection and support the self-organisation of women.

Shape integration and migration – struggle against right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism

We struggle for an open and tolerant society which offers to all people living and working in Germany and in countries of the European Union equal citizenship and human rights under equalized material and social conditions. Human rights are indivisible and they are valid for all. Therefore, we oppose any form of racism and anti-Semitism. Open frontiers in Germany and in the European Union for people in distress – we hold on to that. Therefore, we commit ourselves to the re-establishment of the basic right to asylum in Europe on a high level of human rights and international law.

The Federal Republic of Germany has been an immigrant country for decades. This has produced a multiplicity of cultures and ways of life in Germany that enrich this society. Yet the integration of immigrants and of those already living here requires social and political organisation.

Right-wing extremism and neo-Nazism are a danger for democracy and peaceful living together in society. Therefore, and in view of German history, we commit to anti-fascism and fight against any form of right-wing extremism and neo-Nazism. That means that we defend the public realm and civil-society structures and educational work.

One of the disputed themes in the social debate is whether the interdiction of neo-Nazi and right-wing organisations and parties is reasonable in the struggle against right-wing extremism.

5- Science and innovation for socio-ecological alternatives

A central task of science policy is to aim toward getting scientific work concentrated much more on the decisive unsolved problems of society. This prohibits increasing subjugation of science under business management criteria and narrowing of science policy to the encouragement of sciences of nature and technology. Universities and research institutes need adequate public finances and should not depend on funding by financially strong sponsors. We turn against patents on genes of living creatures or parts of living creatures, especially of people.

We speak up for the strengthening of basic research at universities and extra-university scientific institutions, for a balanced relationship of theoretical and application-oriented research and teaching both at the universities as well as at the specialised technical colleges as well as for a productive unity of research and teaching, for the reduction of hierarchical structures in the university sector and greater independence of the intermediary scientific level.

6- Education, culture, and the media

Basically, education – regardless at what level – to us is a public good that – due to its significance – should be accessible on a cost-free basis. In the long run, therefore, all user fees in this sector should be abolished.

We are committed for a qualified state educational system close to one’s home.  Education and child-raising begin in kindergarten. In the future, the offering of an old-day care is supposed to be guaranteed to all children. Moreover, we strive toward the re-appreciation of pre-school education. Pre-school linguistic encouragement should be expanded and implemented. It should be disposable in particular – but not only – to children who have a migratory background. The goal is an all-day school for all children from the first to the ninth class that puts an end to the consciously accepted social selection and that promotes children and youth in their learning difficulties and in their talents and strengths, understands education as an emancipative process and gives young people the armour for a self-determined life. We want to safeguard the dual professional education system and expand professional as well as general education forms of life-long learning.

   The profit-oriented influence of the economy on the universities and colleges should be taken back. We are striving to institute a tripartite self-administration at the colleges. The access to the individual courses of study should remain free; we are strictly opposed to selective access to master’s degrees. We refuse tuition fees. Extra-school educational institutions such as community colleges, music schools – but also regional sports facilities should be guaranteed and receive adequate financial means.

The freedom of cultural performance by the encouragement of their communicative and socio-critical competence in the arts, the sciences, in various media publics, in socio-cultural spaces and in alternative life forms is a central concern of ours. Cultural and media policy should do justice to the multitude of sponsors of cultural production and keep the promotion of public and common-weal oriented institutions in view just as the support of private economic publishing houses, studios, agencies and artistic production firms.

A cooperative cultural federalism with a European dimension secures international radiation in particular by the cultural exchange at the regional and federal level. It has, as its starting point, communities worth living in, who are in a position, financially and in a coordinated way, to foster publics for regional cultural life in all social environments and to guarantee free space for the cultural self-determination of all age-groups.

Democratic control of the cultural economic sector, sensitive encouragement of cinema, music, literature and theatre, painting and sculpture and modern experimental artistic expression belong to the basic understanding of the cultural and media-political action of the Left. We want to secure legal-public radio and strengthen press freedom also on the editorial boards of the mass media.

We consider the freedom of information and opinion of the women and men citizens as a basic element of cultural development. In authorship law we want to strengthen the rights of the authors (women and men) vis-à-vis the utilisation firms and limit non-commercial usage as little as possible. The internet is today one of the most important information sources in daily life. We want to counteract a split into users (women and men) and non-users. We promote free software (open source) and refuse the patenting of software.

7- New approach for East Germany and structurally weak West-German regions

East Germany needs a second Turn – in the interest of the whole Federal Republic. A new departure for East Germany and for structurally weak West-German regions is more than overdue. First of all, creative policy, in the light of large problems that are not seized by market mechanisms, acquires first-rank importance. However, it cannot be limited to East Germany alone. Strategic political power to shape things at the federal level is a decisive condition for the turning around of negative developmental trends in many parts of Germany.

Second, the East Germans need more voice in politics and in the public realm. The prerequisite for that is the increased self-esteem of many people in the new federal regions, their more pronounced capitalism-critical attitude and their greater longing for social justice. Their special experiences should no longer be discarded. Still existing discriminations, such as that already mentioned in pension law, must finally be abolished.

One central project of the new Left Party is its action for the education and for general conditions more worth to be lived in for young people in East Germany and in all structurally weak regions, for the compatibility of family and profession here, so that it is worth staying here. At the federal level, public scientific investments should be directed more to East Germany. The encouragement of innovative firms should contribute to the offering of attractive tasks to well-qualified people.

We plead for a new type of industrial and structural policy. That means among other things: advance future-oriented branches and companies and turn them, in connection with scientific institutions, into clusters of regional and over-arching economic development, sufficient credits by regional banks and savings banks to the East German firms often weak in capital; produce planning security for the disposal over means from the EU, the federal budget, and the solidarity pact. Regions with particularly large structural and budgetary problems, instead of half, should be forced to co-finance instead of half, only a fourth of the subsidies. Highly indebted communities should be reimbursed for their financing share by the regions. Regional planning in accordance with a guiding idea shall contribute to the development of regional economic strength in the problem regions in East and West Germany.

To the open problems, there belongs: How can we avoid that a concentration on growth clusters and focus branches does not unhitch peripheral regions even more?

8- Peace and international politics

Foreign and peace policy has its basis in law, in particular international law, strives toward global justice and the implementation of human rights, demands the world-wide banning of weapons of mass destruction and consequent disarmament and speaks up for the democratisation of international relations. The goal of the Charta of the United Nations to achieve a world without the application and threat of violence, demands a continued strengthening and reforms of the UN, more rights of the plenary assembly face to the claims of the world and great powers. Human rights must be valid universally; deportations, secret prisons, and torture must be banned world-wide.

The Left is part of the peace movement, of the world-wide movements of globalisation critique, of the social forums, the trade unions, and international help and self-help. As part of the Party of the European Left, we want to develop a close cooperation of left parties and movements in the whole world.

German policy must become peace policy. The federal army may no longer be deployed for military interventions. We want to overcome military alliances such as NATO and stop the militarization of the EU. Germany should renounce to the development and the production of new weapons of aggression, prohibit arms exports, take back the stationing of nuclear weapons in Germany, and turn disarmament into a state task, also by way of courageous, unilateral steps.

Peace and development policy in times of globalisation

Social wealth today and in the future could provide all people all over the world with a life in dignity, free of hunger and poverty, in cultural diversity and at a high level of education. To get there, natural resources such as oil, gas, water, and soil must be distributed in a just way and used in common. Humanity disposes of the knowledge and the instruments to bring economy and ecology into sync, and to stop the climatic catastrophe. The scourge of war and force would become past in the 21st century, disarmament and peace by contrast reality. The global challenges to human kind can be solved.    

Neoliberal globalisation, though, has left a trace of destruction throughout all parts of the world. Using the argument of the globalisation constraints, social and ecological standards were demolished, restrictions on the financial markets torn down, production sites destroyed, and national economies eroded. The radicalism of markets has led to the world-wide uncontrolled domination of transnational concerns. Yet: Before the real global challenges, neoliberal concepts and ideologies have failed.

The 21st century has begun, just as the 20th ended: with wars. Numerous wars all over the world have cost their lives to hundred thousands of people. Regional and local conflicts, the struggle for natural resources and markets harbour the danger of a world-wide conflagration. For the first time, the armament expenditures of the states devour more than one billion US Dollars a year. Armament already kills in peace time.

Hunger, poverty, mass diseases, unequal access to clean water, energy, knowledge, the patenting of sees and home plants by international corporations get the world ever more out of balance. The climatic catastrophe has already begun.

Unsolved conflicts and deep injustices, especially in the Near and Middle East have nurtured terrorism as a global danger. The “war against terror” has sharpened the threat and led to the further spread of weapons of mass destruction; enormous financial means are being invested for annihilation and not for development. World-wide migratory movements, mass flight and expulsion are consequences of a policy that cuts millions of people off from a life in dignity.

As the Left in Germany, we want to contribute to a world wide popular front of left parties and movements and are part of the peace movement, globalisation critique, trade unions, international help and self-help. We want another internationalisation of cooperation on the basis of equal rights, uniting the people, support of the poorer people by the OECD countries – without wars and military threats, aimed a the pushing through of social and ecological standards in accordance with the national possibilities and the realisation of human rights around the world.

The Left in Germany engages itself for a just world economic order; for steps toward the control and the regulation of international financial markets. It resists any further conversion of public goods into commodities. What is necessary is a comprehensive annulling of the debt of poorer countries, the increase of developmental aid in the next years to over 0.7% of GDP, a democratisation of international organisations such as IMF and World Bank.

The goal of the Charta of the United Nations, namely to achieve a world without the application and threat of force, requires a further strengthening and reforms of the UN, more rights of the plenary assembly face to the claims of the world and the great power. World-wide disarmament and a comprehensive banning of all A, B, and C weapons belong on the international agenda.

The European Union – social, civil, and democratic

The Left speaks up for the development of the EU from a European economic and currency union to a European employment, social, environmental and peace union. This would promote stability and security and equalise the life conditions in Europe.

The European Union has not made the national state superfluous. The European Union has not made the national state superfluous. The national state should again become a legal, social, cultural, and political factor where social security and democracy can get their way. National states and European Union must enter into a new relationship. The key to that is the democratization of the national states and the EU.

The European Union may not continue to close its borders toward the world, toward people in misery. European initiatives against racism, right-wing extremism, anti-Semitism, and nationalism promote democratic developments in civil society and can change the policy of states. The European asylum and immigration law must be improved.

The Party of the European Left, whose member we are, is a new factor in European political life. Just as our party in Germany, it is a step to more unity of the Left and offers the possibility to shift, together with social and cultural movements, the relationship of forces towards the left. Common projects like minimal wages and social and ecological minimal standards, the prevention of the reshaping of Europe into a military and armament power, and initiatives for the democratisation of Europe can be successful. The resistance up to now against the EU constitutional Treaty and the Bolkestein directive is encouraging. The contribution of the Left in Europe towards another better, Europe is our common contribution to the struggle for another, better world.

To the important questions that should continue to be discussed both in the Left as well as in the public, there also belongs:

Under what conditions can and shall international military interventions on behalf and under the control of the UN in regional war and civil war constellations contribute to a return of peaceful development?

What connection and what contradictions do there exist between justice and human rights?

How should the Left position itself to the further enlargement of the EU, to the acceptance of Turkey, to the freedom of residence?

IV- Strategic approaches

The strategic core task consists in the change of social and political relationship of forces in order to be able to implement a Left-wing, democratic, and socially oriented policy and a solidary transformation of society. This is a long-term process. We strive for a change in power relationships.

The change in social relationships is possible only when strong alternative social forces of the trade unions, the social movements, initiatives, progressive science and culture and the left political parties together oppose the ruling economic, political, and medial forces of neoliberalism. We want to contribute to an alliance of the dependent workers on the European and international scale that comprises at the same time the highly qualified employed and the core teams as well as those in insecure, temporary and part-time work relationships as well as the unemployed. We want an alliance with intellectuals from culture, art, education, science, and other sectors of social life. We want to address all people who commit for social justice, emancipation, and more democracy, peace and the conservation of nature, independently of their political rule and world view.

Such a new alliance needs partner-like relationships that recognise the difference, yet work on the basis of the common goals and extend them. As a party we want to productively realise our own functions and at the same time encourage our members to engage in trade unions, welfare organisations, associations, and alternative projects as well as globalisation critical initiatives. At the same time, we want to develop, by way of our action at the local level, in the regional parliaments, at the federal and European level, the ability to defend both the interests of the dependently employed and the socially disadvantages, as well as to get a social and democratic interest in the common weal win over ruling and privileged groups, make left politics capable of conflict despite the real contradictions and to transfer it by way of negotiations into realisable policies.

We want to oppose to neoliberal ideology alternative positions of another developmental way and link this to the experiences and conflicts in the firms and in daily life and advocate them in a popular and hands-on way in the public debate. We understand the economic and social problems mainly as the result of false, neoliberally imbued answers to the new challenges under the influence of capital interests as well as the expression of crisis processes and contradictions brought forth by the capitalist economy. In the public debate, the Left stresses the contradiction between a single-enterprise perspective and a macroeconomic one. It is a matter of information, public relations’ work and actions, of educational work, of the creation of networks and the intervention into scientific discussions.

As a Left Party, we want to link together social protest, the development of alternatives in the given situation, and its opening to developmental paths that point beyond the contemporary society. Together with other left forces we want to work on central alternative projects and defend them with emphasis. Such projects that correspond to the interests of many people and are realised by many together, are not discovered in party headquarters. They grow form the social and political controversies of the present and must be sought out in public discussions and in actions of the most diverse forces. Important reference points for us, in this context, are positions that trade unions and other social and democratic organisations and movements. And we want to participate in these processes with our own ideas. The new left party considers this as an important element of its strategy.

Electoral projects serve us to defend our alternative reform projects in the dialogue with women and men citizens and to fight for social and political majorities for their implementation. In that context, we conduct an offensive struggle with the politics and the ideology of the rulers. We want to shape our parliamentary work in such a way that it serves the collaboration with extra-parliamentary forces of the Left, the public presentation of our own reform proposals and the introduction of alternative laws, the examination of the abuse of political power and the creation of new majorities.

As left, political party, we consider the participation in governments as a means of social transformation if the necessary conditions for that are given. In particular, it requires broad social support and stable parliamentary alliances with other political force. Left politics needs the help and also the galvanizing criticism of public pressure and extra-parliamentary mobilisation. In an open and transparent process, we want to discuss the standards of governmental participation and weigh under the concrete conditions, what decisions to take. Criteria are the improvement of the situation of the disadvantaged, the implementation of important reform projects of the Left, stopping the neoliberal offensive, the changing of the relationship of forces, and the introduction of a policy change. Decisive for bringing about a change of policy is the federal scale. Here there are the most competences necessary for that, here the most essential points are set.

We shall examine intensively the experiences up to now in Germany, Europe, and on the international scale. We shall bear in mind the different possibilities at the local, regional, and federal level.

It is our plan to develop our policy together with all party members, the women and men citizens, the trade unions and democratic and social movements. The confrontation with problems, differences, and controversies should be led publicly in such a way that neoliberalism is weakened and the Left and the perspective it offers of a fundamental change of direction is strengthened.  

There are among us different ideas on what should be the special tasks of a party in contrast to social movements, how to fashion the relationship between extra-parliamentary and parliamentary work and whether a governmental participation at the regional level under the present conditions can do justice to the common standards expected of left politics and policies or not.

Joachim Bischoff (WASG), Michael Brie (Left Party, rlf), Wolfgang Gehrcke (Left Party), Bernd Ihme (Left Party), Dieter Klein (Left Party, rlf), Ralf Krämer (WASG), Konstanze Kriese (Left Party), Julia Müller (WASG), Katina Schubert (Left Party), Axel Troost (WASG), Harald Werner (Left Party), Janine Wissler (WASG)

Translated by Carla Krüger, March 1, 2006;